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Phantasmagorical bildungsroman. But no dialogue—not in Part 1—no social hubbub, no characters, no sex—a fascination with sex parts, yes, but no coitus or buggery, just these fleshy emblems of solitary inertness. We are in the head of this asocial narrator barreling through his little world in Bucharest Romania from birth to early young manhood.
In fact, the story moves with a stunning continuity from scene to scene. Every now and then the author lets us know how old the narrator is at that moment, but this is a constantly changing, swirling through time. The use of non-chronology is masterful. The narrator tells the story of his people, the Badislavs. The people hide in their old church which the ghouls try to burn down with a collective breath of fire.
But the pious old priest circumvents the evil by calling down a semi-translucent host of angels in whose veins the ichor can be seen to flow. Those who loved Harry Potter in their youth might find this nourishing adult fare. We are led then into a vast interpersonal cosmogony. The section is unabashedly dualistic, as all writing is a running set of oppositions, a thing being nothing without its fellow. Zen by contrast finds dualism at the root of all human suffering.
This is usually where I get off the fantasy train. But then, perhaps the author realized his nonsensical flights were beginning to tire his reader, we return to beautiful Bucharest. A glint of light from car windshields on a blindingly hot day, the various city stinks, a flour mill whitening its own tired brick facade, textures of dirt, fabrics, masonry, flesh, clouds; his mother leaving the textile mill half deaf from the noise; a butterfly-shaped mole on her thigh remembered.
We meet Anca who like the narrator flashes through multiple times of life, multiple ages in a few pages of this kaleidoscopic story. She is shaved and tattooed on her head at a tender age by the strange Herman. Her mother, the sign of her shitty life to come, locks her away in horror for a year or two. Mircea fancies his world conceived on the instant out of whole cloth for his sole delectation, constructed by some god for him alone. Yes, I was sure: my life was constructed. Second by second, a metaphysical artist invented billions of details and made captivating and exuberant scenery, iridescent surfaces beyond which was perhaps a uniform radiance, or the indescribable.
This is an august rhetorical device that goes back at least to Russian Formalism and is known as defamiliarization, or ostranenie , for its estranging effect on the reader. In Part 2 the book broadens to multi-generational saga.
She works with her younger sister, Vascilica, in the deafening sewing factory. They sleep in the same bed. There was no vote, just the monolithic Communist Party; it was a police state. Yet this dysfunctional place is the fabulist world of the novel. Can it be considered a deep irony placing such a fabulist tale in a place of such enormous material want?
The nightclub sequence is a magic beyond my meager powers of summary; you must read it. How can one sustain fabulism at this intensity for pages? The author is brilliantly talented. I guess the paucity of realism is getting to me. This argument is of course completely unfair. Certainly a staunch fabulist could make a similar claim about a realist novel. As Federico Fellini , largely a fabulist, once put it, I paraphrase: A work of art is only what it is. Therefore, the critic is usually wrong.
Bearing that proviso in mind, I press on. But realism, it occurs to me, as more of the totalitarianism slowly become foregrounded—the realism of Mr.
View all 9 comments. Yet it also weaves in dreams and memories, obscuring the lines between hallucinations and reality throughout. His prose reflects his work as a poet—his eye for color and texture, his predilection for striking imagery. At length, The Left Wing becomes a wildly imaginative, detailed cosmology, a search for metaphysical truth, an attempt at a religious doctrine that privileges creation and connection among beings and planes of existence. This wide variety of influences contributes to the visionary sensibility of this volume, but it also weighs it down with lengthy digressions and esoteric descriptions.
As befits a work of poetic cosmology, The Left Wing has a tripartite structure. In Part One, the narrator, Mircea, introduces us to his Bucharest, a surreal landscape that combines beauty and squalor.
They arrive in the city as innocent teens, fresh from their small village. Part Two also contains several long, mythic passages, including one told by the jazz musician Cedric about his eerie ritualistic experiences in New Orleans.
In Part Three, Mircea returns to center stage, as he relates two tales of his hospitalizations in Bucharest, one when he was five and one when he was in his teens. Transitions are abrupt, narratives cut off, only to be continued pages later. Mircea feels a deep connection to Bucharest, one which he characterizes as physiological as well as spiritual: With its demented and chaotic traffic, its industrial platforms, where every piece of every machine was consumed long ago, both physically and morally, its universities and libraries where lichen blossomed in a thousand colors and species, its statues ah, its statues!
Throughout, Mircea uses physiological imagery to build up a holistic system joining his body to Bucharest. The city Cartarescu imagines here is surreal, one in which Mircea imagines a line of crucified Christs strung on the powerlines, where statues come to life, where buildings take on the appearance of the body in one case requiring crews to construct a bra for one particularly voluptuous building.
All elements are interconnected in an intricate web: How strangely everything was starting to connect! Nothing ought to be accidental. And even I, a mummified butterfly, was just another figure, dotting the canvas with the wool of my blood. Characters appear and reappear throughout The Left Wing , providing the reader with opportunities to trace connections among people, which may seem like chance, or may be ruled by fate.
The underground caverns of Bucharest, crowded with statues and tombs, do not simply connect parts of the city, but instead act as conduits connecting those who hold their secrets with access to a mysterious, spiritual dimension. The surreal nature of The Left Wing comes in part from the porous walls between dreams and reality.
Hallucinations resonate with memories, which in turn reflect the future. Mircea observes these dreams, but he also feels them. They are visceral. Drawing on chaos theory, he describes a complex world in which all elements are connected, no single being is isolated. The smallest event in one part of the world can have extraordinary consequences on the other side of the world.
He also presents a paranoid vision of the world, one that supports conspiracy theories as well as more positive forms of interconnection. In ancient Greek and Gnostic thought, it symbolizes a soul, the metamorphosis from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly representing transformation.
In Christian thought, the cocoon signifies death, and the rebirth as a butterfly resurrection. In European folk belief, the butterfly was often related to fertility. And in more recent scientific and philosophical thought, the so-called butterfly effect signifies the interconnections among phenomena and the striking impact of seemingly insignificant changes on physical phenomena like weather systems.
Cărtărescu, Mircea (1956-)
It also contains what is probably one of Cartarescu's best writings: REM. It has the value of an absolute truth, it gives the quintessence of all universal truths. The novella presents an initiation process and the one chosen to go down this road is Svetlana, who is also the main character. Not only does the text find the game as main theme, but it can be thought of as written in the spirit of the game, binding together narrative categories. He indulges in compassion and love for his former selves and is childlike that is to say fierce defender of both memory and the freedom to dream. He is curative because he gives you dreams and restores your faith in literature. A book you can simply not put down once you started reading it.
Orbitor. Aripa stângă
De CE Iubim Femeile by Mircea Cartarescu